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CLARE, a close friend of St. Francis of Assisi, lived in the 13th
Century. Her reputation was like that of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, "a
saint in our midst".
CLARE was born into a wealthy family, educated in the domestic arts of
spinning and needle work, reading and writing. She knew about St.
Francis because of his love for the poor. Francis' father was a
successful cloth merchant. In 1204 Francis enlisted in Assisi's war
with Perugia. After a year as a prisoner of war, his view of society
and its social structures was forever altered.
During this time, urban development was beginning and capitalism was
in its infancy. Goods were created through cheap labor and poor
working conditions. Francis could see that the poor were most harmed
by capitalism and urbanization. He left his father's business and
began a simple life dependent on God. He begged and preached in the
streets of Assisi and ultimately formed the community of Friars Minor.
IN 1210 Clare heard Francis preach detachment from things and money,
to live in faith, that God will provide as God cares for the birds of
the air (Matt 6).
IN 1212 Clare left her family and joined Francis. Inspired by Francis'
faith, Clare lived and believed in Divine Providence. She depended on
God to supply what she and the community needed. Her small group of
followers became known as Poor Clares.
IN the document on her canonization in 1255, a number of miracles are
re-told. Once, finding an empty jar of oil filled when they were in
need, Clare believed God had filled it as "a gift of divine
generosity". Clare accepted all things and people as a gift from God.
She lived among her community as an equal doing daily works with
everyone else. She was attentive to the well-being of each sister.
Once Clare suspected a sister was suffering from depression and gave
her extra sensitivity and care. The nun was restored to health and
peace of heart, the canonization document says.
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tells us she healed a young boy with an emotional disorder.
FRANCIS also respected Clare's gifts of listening and insights. He and
the brothers went to Clare whenever they had to make an important
decision. Pope Gregory IX, a regular visitor, often consulted her
opinion. Soon Clare and her communities became known for their care
and prayers for people in need.
CLARE was canonized two years after her death and thousands of women
still follow her inspiration as Poor Clares around the world. We are
blessed to be among these.
Saint Francis of Assisi (1182-10/4/1226) is the co-founder of the
Franciscan Order. The son of a rich merchant named Pietro di
Bernardone, he was very worldly in his early years. He was held
prisoner for several months in 1202 during a dispute between Assisi
and Perugia. This was followed by a period of illness. Dissatisfied
with his life, he turned to prayer and service to the poor, and in
1206 he publicly renounced his father's wealth.
Francis began to live as a hermit and soon attracted followers. He
preached the necessity of a poor, simple life-style based on the
ideals of the Gospels. Pope Innocent III approved his way of life,
gave him and his disciples permission to preach on moral topics, and
had Francis ordained a deacon. The followers increased and were called
Friars Minor by Francis, that is, the lesser brethren.
With the collaboration of Saint Clare of Assisi (1194-8/11/1253),
Francis founded (1212) a branch of his order for women, called the
Poor Clares. Later, he established (1221) another branch for lay men
and women, called the Third Order. In 1219, during the Fifth Crusade,
Francis made his famous but fruitless attempt to convert the sultan
al-Kamil while the crusaders laid seige to Damietta in Egypt.
Upon returning from the Crusades, Francis retired from the government
of the order to a life of contemplation, during which he received the
Stigmata (the imprint of the wounds of Christ in his own body) and
composed his famous poem, the Canticle of Brother Sun. He died on
October 3, 1226 and was canonized in 1228. Francis's feast day is
Francis was the son of Peter Bernardone, an Italian merchant. He was a
generous, light-hearted man, not at all the son his father had
envisioned taking over his cloth business. Francis longed to become a
knight, and after an experience in battle and subsequent imprisonment,
Francis became ill and his conversion process had begun. After
recovering, he reached out to the poor and outcasts in society,
notably lepers, and shared his material resources generously. He even
began to repair churches in Assisi, after hearing the Lord tell him to
rebuild the church. His father was outraged at his behavior, and
brought him before the bishop of Assisi. Francis returned his father's
material possessions, and professed his love for God the father alone.
After hearing the Gospel in which Our Lord commissions His apostles to
carry no possessions, Francis recognized God's will in his life and
began a radical penitential movement. Others joined him, living in
poverty, traveling, and preaching. They called themselves the friars
minor, and Pope Innocent III gave approval. A second order, for women
was established and headed by Saint Clare, and a third order was
established for both men and women. Francis showed a great love for
all of creation, and is known for his songs and poetry praising God in
creation. His love of the crucified Christ filled his heart, and, 2
years before his death, he received the stigmata (sacred wounds) on
his body. Francis died in 1226. His feast day is October 4th.